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Darius Milhaud (1926), Paris

Darius Milhaud (French: [daʁjys mijo]; 4 September 1892 – 22 June 1974) was a French composer and teacher. He was a member of Les Six—also known as The Group of Six—and one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century. His compositions are influenced by jazz and make use of polytonality. Darius Milhaud is to be counted among the modernist composers.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Born in Marseilles to a Jewish family from Aix-en-Provence, Milhaud began as a violinist, later turning to composition instead. Milhaud studied in Paris at the Paris Conservatory where he met his fellow group members Arthur Honegger and Germaine Tailleferre. He studied composition under Charles Widor and harmony and counterpoint with André Gedalge. He also studied privately with Vincent d'Indy. From 1917 to 1919, he served as secretary to Paul Claudel, the eminent poet and dramatist who was then the French ambassador to Brazil, and with whom Milhaud collaborated for many years, setting music for many of Claudel's poems and plays. While in Brazil, they collaborated on a ballet, L'Homme et son désir.[2]

On his return to France, Milhaud composed works influenced by the Brazilian popular music he had heard, including compositions of Brazilian pianist and composer Ernesto Nazareth. Le bœuf sur le toit includes melodies by Nazareth and other popular Brazilian composers of the time, and evokes the sounds of Carnaval. The recurring theme is, in fact, a Carnaval tune by the name of "The Bull on the Roof" (in Portuguese which he translated to French 'Le boeuf sur le toit', known in English as 'The Ox on the Roof'). He also produced Saudades do Brasil, a suite of twelve dances evoking twelve neighborhoods in Rio. Shortly after the original piano version appeared, he orchestrated the suite.

On a trip to the United States in 1922, Darius Milhaud heard "authentic" jazz for the first time, on the streets of Harlem, [3] which left a great impact on his musical outlook. The following year, he completed his composition La création du monde (The Creation of the World), using ideas and idioms from jazz, cast as a ballet in six continuous dance scenes.[3]

In 1925, Milhaud married his cousin, Madeleine (1902–2008), an actress and reciter. In 1930 she bore him a son, the painter and sculptor Daniel Milhaud, who was the couple's only child.[4]

The rise of Nazism forced the Milhauds to leave France in 1940 and emigrate to the United States (his Jewish background made it impossible for Milhaud to return to his native country until after its liberation).[5] He secured a teaching post at Mills College in Oakland, California, where he composed the opera Bolivar (1943) and collaborated with Henri Temianka and the Paganini Quartet. In an extraordinary concert there in 1949, the Budapest Quartet performed the composer's 14th String Quartet, followed by the Paganini Quartet's performance of his 15th; and then both ensembles played the two pieces together as an octet.[6] The following year, these same pieces were performed at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado, by the Paganini and Juilliard String Quartets.[7]

The jazz pianist Dave Brubeck became one of Milhaud's most famous students when Brubeck furthered his music studies at Mills College in the late 1940s. In a February 2010 interview with Jazzwax, Brubeck said he attended Mills, a women's college (men were allowed in graduate programs), specifically to study with Milhaud, saying, "Milhaud was an enormously gifted classical composer and teacher who loved jazz and incorporated it into his work. My older brother Howard was his assistant and had taken all of his classes."[8] Brubeck named his first son Darius.

Milhaud's former students also include popular songwriter Burt Bacharach.[9] Milhaud told Bacharach, "Don't be afraid of writing something people can remember and whistle. Don't ever feel discomfited by a melody".[10]

Milhaud (like his contemporaries Paul Hindemith, Gian Francesco Malipiero, Alan Hovhaness, Bohuslav Martinů and Heitor Villa-Lobos) was an extremely rapid creator, for whom the art of writing music seemed almost as natural as breathing. His most popular works include Le bœuf sur le toit (a ballet which lent its name to the legendary cabaret frequented by Milhaud and other members of Les Six), La création du monde (a ballet for small orchestra with solo saxophone, influenced by jazz), Scaramouche (for saxophone and piano, also for two pianos), and Saudades do Brasil (dance suite). His autobiography is titled Notes sans musique (Notes Without Music), later revised as Ma vie heureuse (My Happy Life).

From 1947 to 1971, he taught alternate years at Mills and the Paris Conservatoire, until poor health, which caused him to use a wheelchair during his later years (beginning in the 1930s), compelled him to retire. He died in Geneva at the age of 81, and he was buried in the Saint-Pierre Cemetery in Aix-en-Provence.[11]


Darius Milhaud was very prolific and composed for a wide range of genres. His opus list ended at 443.

See List of compositions by Darius Milhaud.

Notable students[edit]

Archival collections[edit]

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ Reinhold Brinkmann & Christoph Wolff, Driven into Paradise: The Musical Migration from Nazi Germany to the United States (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1999), 133. ISBN 0-520-21413-7.
  2. ^ Notes Without Music: An Autobiography. New York: Da Capo Press, 1970.
  3. ^ a b "Milhaud - La création du monde" (of Darius Milhaud, English language), Pomona College, Department of Music, 1999, webpage: PomonaEdu-Milhaud-Creation.
  4. ^ The Independent. Obituary, 31 March 2008. London.
  5. ^ Madeleine and Darius Milhaud, Hélène and Henri Hoppenot, Conversation: Correspondance 1918–1974, complétée par des pages du Journal d’Hélène Hoppenot, ed. Marie France Mousli (Paris: Gallimard, 2006), 182–84.
  6. ^ Mills College program of August 10, 1949, in Archives of Henri Temianka Estate.
  7. ^ Aspen Institute program of July 26, 1950, in Archives of Henri Temianka Estate.
  8. ^ Brubeck interview.
  9. ^ Mihai Cucos, "A Few Points about Burt Bacharach …", Perspectives of New Music 43, no. 1 (Winter 2005): 198–211. Citation on 200.
  10. ^ Mihai Cucos, "A Few Points about Burt Bacharach …", Perspectives of New Music 43, no. 1 (Winter 2005): 198–211. Citation on 205.
  11. ^ Centre Darius Milhaud: Cimetière Saint Pierre.

External links[edit]

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Darius Milhaud - La creation du monde (1923)

Orquesta Nacional de Francia , conducted by Leonard Bernstein Darius Milhaud - La création du monde ,Op.81 (1923) This piece describe the Creation of the Wor...

Darius Milhaud: Sonata per oboe, flauto, clarinetto e pianoforte, Op.47 (1918)

Darius Milhaud (1892-1974): Sonata per oboe, flauto, clarinetto e pianoforte, Op.47 (1918). 1. Tranquille 2. Joyeux 3. Emporte 4. Douloureux Ensemble Polyton...

Le Boeuf sur le Toit - Darius Milhaud

Orchestre national d'Île de France sous la direction de Christophe Mangou Salle Gaveau.

Saudades do Brasil - Darius Milhaud

1.- Sorocaba 2.- Botafogo 1:34 3.- Leme 3:34 4.- Copacabana 6:05 5.- Ipanema 9:11 6.- Gavea 11:14.

DARIUS MILHAUD (1892-1974) Scaramouche -- Suite for Two Pianos

Taken from the Dublin In international Piano Spectacular All seven previous winners in a once-off performance. PHILIPPE CASSARD (1988), PAVEL NERSESSIAN (199...

Darius Milhaud: L'Automne op.115 (1932)

Darius Milhaud (1892-1974): L'Automne, per pianoforte op.115 (1932) -- Billy Eidi, pianoforte -- I. Septembre II. Alfama III. Adieu ---- The music published ...

Scaramouche: Brazileira. Darius Milhaud.

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Darius Milhaud - La Creation du Monde: Overture - I.

Darius Milhaud's La Creation du Monde: Overture - I. (1923) (Orchestre National de France, conducted by Leonard Bernstein, November 8-9, 1976,Theatre des Cha...

Darius Milhaud: Suite Provençale op.152a (1936)

Darius Milhaud (1892-1974): Suite Provençale, per orchestra op.152a (1936) --- Orchestre de la Société des Concerts du Conservatoire diretta da Serge Baudo -...

Darius Milhaud - Duo Concertant for clarinet and piano

Darius Milhaud (1892-1974) Duo Concertant for clarinet and piano Jonathan Cohlen, clarinet and Judith Gordon, piano Paintings by Raul Duffy (3 June 1877 -- 2...

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200 news items

Hartford Courant
Mon, 28 Jul 2014 10:15:00 -0700

Brubeck's father, the famed composer of "Take Five," "Blue Rondo à la Turk" and other jazz classics who passed away in 2012 at the age of 91, studied composition with French modernist Darius Milhaud in the late 1940s. Chris never studied composition in ...


Fri, 25 Jul 2014 07:14:54 -0700

Comment je suis devenue célèbre, spectacle musical plein d'humour, sera présenté au Théâtre Darius Milhaud du 6 octobre au 22 décembre 2014. Comment je suis devenue célèbre, pièce écrite par Nathalie Arnoux qui interprète également le rôle principal, ...


Wed, 23 Jul 2014 19:01:43 -0700

かつてミヨーに師事した別宮貞雄は「Beaucoup de Mélodies!(たくさんのメロディを!)」としょっちゅう言われていたと述べていた。ミヨーの音楽、ちょっと聞くとただ騒がしいようにもおもえるが、そこにはそれぞれの楽器が嬉々としてメロディを奏で、その結果、混沌としてしまっていたり ...
Jerusalem Post
Thu, 24 Jul 2014 03:18:45 -0700

I identify with Israel and the Jewish people and recently performed Service sacre pour le matin du Shabbat by Darius Milhaud in Paris. This rarely performed piece is sung in Hebrew. Yet again, the situation in Paris is far from simple, and that is why ...

Montreal Gazette

Montreal Gazette
Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:37:30 -0700

Chamber orchestras, like low-fat foods, appeal to certain buyers more than others. Also certain conductors. According to his own testimony, Yannick Nézet-Séguin chose the Chamber Orchestra of Europe as a vehicle for a cycle of Schumann's four ...
Orlando Sentinel
Thu, 10 Jul 2014 15:05:26 -0700

Opening and closing with the French national anthem, "La Marseillaise," the 3 p.m. July 13 concert in the Beauclaire Room of the Lakeside Inn will include "Trois Pieces Braves" by Jacques Ibert, "La Cheminee du Roi Rene" by Darius Milhaud and "Le ...

Montreal Gazette

Montreal Gazette
Fri, 25 Jul 2014 10:03:45 -0700

Chamber orchestras, like low-fat foods, appeal to certain buyers more than others. Also certain conductors. According to his own testimony, Yannick Nézet-Séguin chose the Chamber Orchestra of Europe as a vehicle for a cycle of Schumann's four ...
New York Times
Sun, 06 Jul 2014 14:54:51 -0700

... Aix-en-Provence Festival was “Winterreise,” a multimedia collaboration between the South African artist William Kentridge and the German baritone Matthias Goerne, which opened to stormy applause at the Darius Milhaud Conservatory here on Friday.

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